Al Pacino

The Irishman (2019, Martin Scorsese)

The disconcerting part of The Irishman’s actually never-ending CGI isn’t the aging and de-aging, it’s star Robert De Niro’s creepy blue eyes. For the first half hour of the (three and a half hour runtime), I was trying to get used to De Niro’s CGI… makeup, but kept having problems with it, which didn’t make sense because Joe Pesci’s didn’t cause any similar consternation. Then I realized it wasn’t the aging or de-aging, it’s the eyes. De Niro’s got these piercing blue eyes and they just don’t look right on him and you can’t look away from them, which is kind of the point.

If the eyes are the windows to the soul… well, with The Irishman, Scorsese and De Niro have figured out how to do a character study without ever letting anyone into the character. De Niro’s character, real-life teamster and confessed mob hitman Frank Sheeran, starts the film as an aimless, aging truck driver. He breaks down and happens to meet local mobster Joe Pesci, which pays off after De Niro’s gotten busted for stealing from his company—selling beef on the side to a fantastic Bobby Cannavale, apparently mid-level Philadelphia mob guy. De Niro keeps his mouth shut in court, impressing lawyer Ray Romano (also fantastic, clearly a lot of people wanted their chance to shine in the ultimate Scorsese mob picture), so Romano re-introduces him to Pesci and Pesci starts giving him work. Pesci’s playing older than De Niro (the real-life age difference was seventeen years), but the actors are the same age and so they’re in differing intensities of CGI de-aging. There is an onboarding period with The Irishman, when you’re wondering what it must have looked like on the set, with actors like Romano and Cannavale, seemingly just in some make-up, are acting opposite much older guys De Niro and Pesci, who don’t end up looking much older. Like, once it’s clear De Niro’s supposed to look like a tough Irish guy, explaining his stocky shoulders, it all just fits. All just works. It ceases being a concern and actually ends up being one of the film’s unintended pluses. The Irishman is all about aging. It’s all about the passage of time. Just not for the first act and then there’s this intentional avoiding of it for a lot of the second. It’s a long movie; Scorsese can take his time shifting the film’s tone.

But it’s also a multilevel narrative—De Niro, in a rest home, is telling his story, a very old man. Second level is De Niro telling the story of this time he and Pesci and their wives drove from Philadelphia to Detroit for a wedding. Along the way, sometimes because of visual cues, sometimes not, De Niro thinks about his story getting him to that point. We don’t find out the point of that point until much later in the film, after it’s transitioned from the middle-aged schlub (the main action starts when De Niro’s character is in his thirties but he looks much older) gets involved with the mob and tosses out wife Aleksa Palladino for cocktail waitress Stephanie Kurtzuba, which literally has no narrative impact because De Niro’s already estranged daughters immediately bond with the new wife. It ought not to work, but does because the film’s still establishing its narrative distance from De Niro. It’s not until about halfway through the movie you realize he’s not a protagonist. He’s an unreliable, willing but unenthusiastic narrator—it’s clear real quick these trips down memory lane aren’t pleasing to De Niro, at any level he’s narrating. Because once the film introduces Jimmy Hoffa everything changes. Al Pacino plays Hoffa; doing it like a comedy caricature, then making that real—the yelling finally pays off, thanks to Scorsese. The film’s already been this old mob men buddy picture between De Niro and Pesci moves on to be this De Niro and Pacino buddy flick. They hang out with their families, they have heart to heart talks, De Niro even sleeps in Pacino’s hotel suites so he’s not on the register because De Niro’s not just a teamster, he’s Pacino’s bodyguard.

The family thing is important because The Irishman’s only subplot is De Niro’s daughter, Lucy Gallina as a kid, Anna Paquin as an adult. Gallina figures out pretty quick once her dad goes from being a meat delivery truck driver to a mob hitman. It isn’t until he starts hanging out with Pacino does Gallina start liking anything about her dad’s life. She and Pacino are pals. He’s a dotting grandpa figure who buys her ice cream sundaes. Pacino and the ice cream sundaes becomes a nice detail fast.

The family thing gets important again in the third act, after the disappearance. Because at the end of all three levels of story are the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa. The third level, the main narrative, tracks De Niro basically babysitting Pacino through historical events, through the Kennedy administration’s persecution—causing a rift between the mob and the unions (the film does need some kind of a historical accuracy section in the credits just so people know how much of the completely whacked out corruption details are true), which eventually leads to Pacino’s feud with dipshit mobster and rival teamster boss Stephen Graham. Graham’s going to be Pacino’s downfall, no matter what Pesci, De Niro, or anyone else do about it. And it’s a long, drawn out, unpleasant downfall.

Because the closest thing The Irishman has to a hero is Pacino’s Hoffa. He’s far from perfect, but he does help people. If the sixties union speeches about the soulless corporations are accurate, well, would you believe things haven’t really improved in sixty years? Oh, right, we already know that.

Of course, he’s not a hero because there aren’t such a thing. There can’t be. If heroes were such a thing, guys like Pesci and De Niro wouldn’t know how to function. It would mean their world views were abjectly broken and, even if Pesci and De Niro aren’t great fans of the world… broken’s a lot.

That thread plays out later on when The Irishman ends on a starkly atheistic note, which makes perfect sense but is a little surprising. At one point, once it’s clear where they’re going, I actually thought, “we’re a long way from Last Temptation, aren’t we.” The Irishman is a perfectly aged film; it’s cumulative for its creators in all the right ways. Having Pacino do a character actor part is just the crowning achievement. For two hours and forty five minutes of the film, it’s very clearly not De Niro’s, which is weird. It seems like it’s De Niro’s. It’s literally got a Little Big Man bookend; The Irishman has got to be this great culmination. Then isn’t.

And it’s not De Niro’s movie for a long time either. It’s Pesci’s or Pacino’s or even Romano’s; De Niro costars in every one of his scenes, even the ones with Gallina and Paquin, which is something since neither of them talk for most of their scenes. De Niro’s the right hand man, even in his own story.

The last thirty minutes changes it all around and is where Irishman sort of ascends the stairs it wasn’t clear anyone was building. Once it’s clear how The Irishman’s going to go… it’s an ultimate trip.

The film goes from being a success to an achievement, with Scorsese’s direction this perfect mix of confident and enthusiastic. He takes his time establishing the filmmaking ground situation—how he, cinematographer Rodrigo Prieto (and whoever CGIed locations back in time), editor Thelma Schoonmaker, and composer Robbie Robertson (doing some damn fine work, which turns out to be minimalist Morricone) are going to visualize this narrative—then starts branching out, using slow motion for sequences, using a direct exposition dump or two; it’s all very carefully executed and results in every shot being something of a surprise.

There’s a badass 2001 homage. The aforementioned “ultimate trip” is a reference to it but it deserves a callout. It’s really cool. The Irishman still manages to be really cool filmmaking, even after a 130 minutes. Scorsese’s got the juice.

Strong script from Steven Zaillian. He’s got a habit of dragging things out, which Scorsese and the actors are then able to cut lean and nimble, but it’s a questionable habit. Essential expository character development scenes are essential because of Pacino or Pesci or whatever. Not because of Zaillian.

Best performance is either Pesci or Pacino. It’s a toss-up. Pacino for turning a leading man biopic performance into a supporting part or Pesci for getting so much mileage out of a mundane bad guy. But it’s De Niro’s movie in the end. He gets that amazing finale and makes magic. With those creepy CGI blue eyes.

Supporting tier… Romano and Cannavale are the standouts; once Pacino comes in, they all become a lot less important. Sebastian Maniscalco has a great small part. Graham’s a perfect dipshit, which is good, I guess; don’t get typecast (or do). Domenick Lombardozzi’s got a significant supporting part and is unrecognizable to the point you wonder if there’s some CGI involved. He’s excellent in what’s basically the villain part. Harvey Keitel’s got an extended cameo, presumably just to bring a bunch of the gang back together.

Is The Irishman, which Scorsese would’ve preferred to title, I Heard You Paint Houses, but really should just be called Jimmy and Me (or Relating to a Sociopath), a culmination of all Scorsese, De Niro, and Pesci’s mob pictures? Yes and no. It doesn’t make an informal trilogy or quartet, because it’s a do-over. It’s Scorsese figuring out what he wants to say about that thing of theirs, made with properly aged thoughtfulness.

The most striking part of the film is the buddy flick aspect, when it’s just old men De Niro and Pacino pretending to younger old men finding an unexpected friendship. It’s really comfortable work from all involved, even though it seems like where they’d have the most problem. Cracking Pacino and De Niro’s relationship is the film’s (first) big success; basically the first and second act can get away with anything thanks to it. And the second big success, the aforementioned achievement, that one’s the third act.

The Irishman is supplanting work.

4/4★★★★

CREDITS

Directed by Martin Scorsese; screenplay by Steven Zaillian, based on a book by Charles Brandt; director of photography, Rodrigo Prieto; edited by Thelma Schoonmaker; music by Robbie Robertson; production designer, Bob Shaw; costume designers, Christopher Peterson and Sandy Powell; produced by Gerald Chamales, Robert De Niro, Randall Emmett, Gabriele Israilovici, Gastón Pavlovich, Jane Rosenthal, Scorsese, Emma Tillinger Koskoff, and Irwin Winkler; released by Netflix.

Starring Robert De Niro (Frank Sheeran), Al Pacino (Jimmy Hoffa), Joe Pesci (Russell Bufalino), Ray Romano (Bill Bufalino), Bobby Cannavale (Skinny Razor), Stephen Graham (Anthony ‘Tony Pro’ Provenzano), Domenick Lombardozzi (Fat Tony Salerno), Jesse Plemons (Chuckie O’Brien), Gary Basaraba (Frank ‘Fitz’ Fitzsimmons), Marin Ireland (Older Dolores Sheeran), Anna Paquin (Older Peggy Sheeran), Lucy Gallina (Young Peggy Sheeran), Louis Cancelmi (Sally Bugs), Sebastian Maniscalco (Crazy Joe Gallo), Jake Hoffman (Allen Dorfman), Stephanie Kurtzuba (Irene Sheeran), Welker White (Josephine ‘Jo’ Hoffa), Kathrine Narducci (Carrie Bufalino), Aleksa Palladino (Mary Sheeran), and Harvey Keitel (Angelo Bruno).


Hunters (2020) s01e10 – Eilu v’ Eilu

So when I thought “Hunters” was going to use the tenth episode to set up next season… turns out I was mistaken. There’s some setup for next season, complete with some betrayals and cast changes and very big surprise surprises, but it’s mostly a resolution to this season. To things the show never established needing resolved.

It opens with a flashback to the year before, when Jeannie Berlin originally does to Al Pacino to tell them they have to hunt Nazis in their golden years and whatnot. Berlin and Pacino sit for a very awkward, could be good if Michael Uppendahl’s direction of the actors weren’t so terrible and David Weil’s writing weren’t so blah. It’s a wasted opportunity, but will just be the first of many in the episode.

The next one comes in the present, when Logan Lerman—back to being a good boy after last episode—goes to visit Pacino and Pacino’s disappointed in him because Lerman’s not bloodthirsty enough. So Lerman bitches to his last friend left—Henry Hunter Hall—because the girl is gone this episode. What a red herring she turned out to be on like four different levels. Anyway, Lerman bitches about how Pacino doesn’t like him anymore because Lerman’s not a killer. Hunter Hall—completely straight-faced—is like, “well, you know Jean Grey and Spider-Man both went on to kill the big bad” or something to that effect.

One really has to wonder what superhero movie Weil desperately wants to write because it’s desperately obvious he’s elevator pitching.

What else—meaning what else won’t be a spoiler to the multiple big twists—oh, Greg Austin. Greg Austin, even though he’s just playing a psychopathic neo-Nazi at this point, is back to doing well. Show really didn’t end up treating him well, which is fine; “Hunters” doesn’t treat anyone well in the end.

Except, of course, Dylan Baker. He’s a lot of fun.

And William Sadler’s got a good glorified cameo.

Lerman continues to disappoint. He gets to do his whole “seeing the signs” thing with information again this episode, but he gets all that information from Nazi-hunting notes his grandma has been hiding around the house for a calendar year and Lerman never noticed. Weil’s writing has so many “duh” moments.

As for where the show leaves it for the season… it’s pretty cheap, it’s kind of lazy, but I imagine I’ll be back for the next one. At least to see what’s up with some of the cast, though it’s lost a few major draws.

Hunters (2020) s01e09 – The Great Ole Nazi Cookout of ’77

“Hunters” must’ve had the same thought I did about hammering in the point “Operation Paperclip” was a real thing as this one starts with another of the show’s overly stylized, retro PSA videos. But it doesn’t need the history lesson for this episode, because this episode is where everything comes together. “Hunters” does the penultimate episode as a wrap-up, presumably so next episode can establish what the next season’s going to be like. A ground situation refresh. Love it.

And there’s a lot in the episode. A lot of it is even good. Jerrika Hinton having a showdown with Dylan Baker, then ending up dragging Baker along as a prisoner. It’s fantastic. All of a sudden Hinton comes to life again. She’s not moping about her love life, dying mom, uncaring dad, indifferent—at beast—colleagues (though Sam Daly appears again as her only office bud), or doing a purely expository investigation thing. She’s in a suspense thriller and she’s got to deal with Dylan Baker, who’s such a wonderful bastard.

There’s a good scene for Louis Ozawa, which is just an okay one for Tiffany Boone, but Ozawa gets some nice material this episode. Josh Radnor, it turns out, is able to make Kate Mulvany a lot more than she is on her own. It’s Radnor and Mulvany who find out the Nazis are going to execute their evil plan that night. No blackout from this one, however. Just a wanting John Woo movie.

It doesn’t start like a John Woo movie, it starts with Nelson McCormick almost able to direct an infiltration sequence. The team has come together. It’s time to stop the Nazis once and for all. Al Pacino’s going after Lena Olin and Logan Lerman wants to take out young Nazi Greg Austin, which leads to a painfully bad scene between Lerman and Austin. Lerman, doing his tough guy act this episode, is really not working out with this character development. He’s not able to do any of the stuff he needs to do. Meanwhile Austin’s able to weather the weirdest stuff in this episode and still get in some great deliveries.

But when it comes to action, McCormick certainly seems to be trying to do big action and he does it rather poorly. He’s seemingly confused, with the actors armed like it’s a John Woo movie, but the costumes still the seventies stuff, and the production values wanting. If they couldn’t do it, they shouldn’t have tried. “Hunters” has its definite moments, just rarely when it really needs them.

Like when the cliffhanger has Pacino once again acting like a complete idiot who’d never be able to track down and kill a single Nazi, much less a dozen of them or whatever. He’s always not thinking of something really obvious and important. It’s frustrating.

Hunters (2020) s01e08 – The Jewish Question

Well… while this issue has some great stuff for Carol Kane and Saul Rubinek, pretty much everyone else is at the other end of the stick, which seems like a mixed metaphor but basically there’s some not great acting this episode.

The Nazis blowing up a subway was the final straw to convince Logan Lerman he needs to start torturing Nazis to get information—Victor Slezak, who’s a long way from The Bridges of Madison County—and the episode charts Lerman’s growing radicalization. The scene where Louis Ozawa is mortified at Lerman’s inhumanity while Al Pacino looks on proudly would be something… if Lerman weren’t so insufferable when he acts tough.

At the beginning of “Hunters,” I wondered why Lerman—save looking fourteen years old at twice the age—hadn’t made it. Range. Tough Lerman this episode is a slog.

Also a slog is Jerrika Hinton finally joining the team and facing off against Kate Mulvany. Hinton doesn’t come off well, which is a problem. Hinton joins the team after the blackout starts and she threatens Pacino a bit about how he better be telling her the truth about the Nazis she already knows about.

It seems like they’re going to go out and save the day but really they just meet up with the team, have some cries when the extent of the tragedies unfold, then have a funeral. The funeral’s the next day, which is fine, Jewish funeral and all, but it seems like there’d be some trouble getting the body that fast. Like… finding all the parts.

Anyway.

This episode does have some promise of happiness for Hinton, whose dying mom (Myra Lucretia Taylor, who’s got a seriously thankless role) not only knows she’s gay but loves her for it. Good because not only does dad Andre Ware hate her for it, he also thinks her job (saving the world) isn’t important.

It ought to make Hinton more sympathetic but… not really sure she’s going to to be able to have a successful character arc.

Greg Austin’s writing also disappoints. He’s just an idiot Neo-Nazi psychopath. His sidekick this episode, Jonno Davies, is good. Austin’s fine, it’s just disappointing his role’s so shallow.

Dylan Baker’s only got a couple scenes. Doesn’t help.

Great Judd Hirsch cameo. He faces off with Pacino, comes out ahead, which is cool but not great for the show.

What else… we get Pacino’s secret origin from the Holocaust finally. It’s horrific but not as horrific as it could be; it’s measured. Pacino’s got a monologue about being the dark night. “Hunters” seemingly couldn’t exist without superheroes being in pop culture due to the movies of the last fifteen years, which seems very odd for a show set in the seventies.

But Kane and Rubinek have some amazing work here. Not playing old spies and whatnot, but just a married couple. Lovely work.

Oh, and the secret Nazi plan reveal at the end… could be great if the show has the right idea but I’ve got no confidence it does. Not anymore. “Hunters” has started coasting.

Hunters (2020) s01e07 – Shalom Motherf***er

“Hunters” and the secret history of July 13, 1977! It doesn’t just tie into an actual historical event, it causes an actual historical event. It also then directly ties into Summer of Sam then… I wonder if you could cut the entire movie into “Hunters” and just have it be a subplot.

The Nazis cause the New York City blackout of 1977. Maybe if the episode weren’t so wonky it’d be a better twist.

The whole episode’s not wonky, which is almost what makes it most frustrating. Yes, everything involving Pacino—who starts the episode deciding he’s going to keep more secrets from his team—and Jerrika Hinton (who knowingly lets the Nazis play her so she can close one or two open murder cases and not avert a terrorist attack) is wonky. The showdown between Pacino and Hinton is particularly bad because it’s unbelievable Pacino was able to mastermind anything. He gets painfully played in interrogation… and somehow never asks for a lawyer.

But Louis Ozawa finally gets a great moment or two, one with Josh Radnor (who’s so good) and another with Tiffany Boone (who still doesn’t get enough to do) and sort of assumes the unappreciated utility man position on the show. Radnor and Ozawa are trying to infiltrate a veteran’s hospital and Radnor mugs his way through a group therapy session talking to real vets like it’s a shitty war movie. It’s amazing stuff. Then Ozawa just tops it with his real sharing.

There’s a big suspense set piece with the team trying to avert the Nazi attack at Grand Central Station, which feels very New York movie, but then they’re laughably bad at tailing Greg Austin and it’s like… okay, the “Hunters” aren’t so much “Hunters” as bumblers at this point.

The episode ends on a very sad note–with another ghost coming in to forecast the tragedy—and it’s affecting as all hell, it’s just not particularly good. Pacino’s out of his depth, Hinton’s out of her depth… she’s continuing the U.S. Government protecting Nazis and he’s just so inept at masterminding what else would you expect from his team but disaster.

The show still works—it’s still got loads of accumulated goodwill (Dylan Baker’s amazing as always)—but it’d be nice if they could successfully execute this very important episode.

Hunters (2020) s01e06 – (Ruth 1:16)

This episode opens with what seems like a dream sequence for Tiffany Boone, who outside getting to have a giant afro and an occasionally acknowledged daughter, doesn’t have a character. Not really. She gets home from her shootout with the rest of the “Hunters,” covered in blood (not hers), and gets into bed with aforementioned daughter. It’s not a dream sequence though, it’s just showing the mundanity of being a late seventies Black single parent Nazi hunter.

Boone’s got such a thankless part on the show I’m not even sure if she’s good or not. She’s fine… she just literally gets nothing real.

The main story involves Saul Rubinek and Carol Kane’s daughter’s wedding. Everyone’s going to the wedding, including Kate Mulvany, who’s ostensibly got a double agent plot line to work through this episode, but no, not really. I don’t even feel bad about “spoiling” it since it’s obvious red herring; the reddest herring. She gets some flashbacks—she was a Jewish kid sent to the Catholic Church in England before the war and the nuns made her reject her Judaism, which she did after she got too hungry and seems to forever resent herself for it. Fine.

Rubinek and Kane get some flashbacks too, which are going to be important with Mulvany, but it’s a bummer they don’t really get an episode to themselves. Rubinek and Kane are both really good.

There’s some more great stuff from Dylan Baker and some “I’m more Jewish than Tevye” moments for Al Pacino. Both Baker and Pacino chew the scenery into sawdust, but for Baker it’s a great acting success, for Pacino it’s an appropriate use of his schtick. It’s kind of weird with Pacino, especially during the wedding sequence, which should trigger Godfather memories but doesn’t at all.

The wedding is a lot, especially since it ends up being a target for the Nazis, even though Pacino’s blathering about how they’d never hit it. He’s really unprepared, especially when it comes to keeping stately Wayne Manor protected.

Jerrika Hinton’s continuing her “Mindhunter”-esque story arc with the girlfriend and possibly trusting boss James Le Gros (who’s good) way too much. There’s no reason to trust him. Of course she’s not really grokking the danger of Nazis yet so… it’s on par. She’s also pretty chill about the “Operation Paperclip” stuff (google it), like way too trusting of her government who smuggled Nazis into the country.

Speaking of trust, turns out Pacino’s got another secret from Logan Lerman but not the rest of the team. Lerman has another visit from ghost grandma Jeannie Berlin… weird how it’s ghost Berlin for good stuff and the younger version of her for bad stuff.

The episode pushes a little too hard, especially with Louis Ozawa visiting an old war buddy for information, only the old war buddy has been used in U.S. government experiments (with an ex-Nazi doing the experimenting).

The episode’s fine it’s just… nothing more than fine.

Hunters (2020) s01e05 – At Night, All Birds are Black

I feel like “Hunters” needs a real disclaimer to explain while the show itself is fictional, the U.S. government really did import a bunch of Nazis to the United States and turned them into citizens and paid to keep them quiet and happy and fat just so we could beat the Russians to the moon or whatever. There’s this “they brought in thousands of Nazis” moment and it’s like… yeah. They did. Think about that.

The episode’s got a great monologue about it, then a funny PSA about how Huntsville, Alabama is full of Nazis who work in the space program.

There are two targets this episode. Raphael Sbarge plays one, Barbara Sukowa the other. Sukowa’s a Leni Riefenstahl stand-in, Sbarge’s just a Nazi who knows other Nazis. Kind of weird casting—Sukowa’s a renowned West German actor from the eighties, Sbarge’s… Raphael Sbarge. The episode’s also got a cameo from Josh Mostel, though his voice is more recognizable than Mostel himself.

Logan Lerman, Louis Ozawa, and Kate Mulvany go after Sbarge. Josh Radnor, Tiffany Boone, and Al Pacino go after Sukowa. The Sukowa side leads up to a confrontation with Nazi hitman Greg Austin—the Nazis have figured out Pacino’s up to something and he… isn’t prepared for the Nazis to find out about him. It’s concerning.

Ozawa gets an inconvenient PTSD flashback, which is the first time he’s gotten much backstory. Mulvany’s got a big twist too. But while there’s more action on their target, more busyness, Pacino’s one has the bigger “heroes in danger” moment. Not to mention Pacino’s got some kind of secret we’re not supposed to know about yet, just know there’s something he wants to hide from the team.

Meanwhile Dylan Baker gets to meet with Lena Olin and get back into the big Nazi plot. It’s not a great showdown… Olin’s… fine. But she’s not some great villain. She’s an adequate Nazi mastermind.

Jerrika Hinton’s still investigating, this episode meeting up with reporter Miles G. Jackson, who tried to get the word out about the Nazis in the United States and the New York Times fired him for his trouble.

“Hunters” is settling in… it’s good, well-executed, well-plotted. Not what I was expecting (didn’t think Pacino or Lerman would headline with this little spotlight), but it’s good.

Hunters (2020) s01e04 – The Pious Thieves

The best part of this episode is Dylan Baker getting pissed off Lena Olin is cutting him out of the Nazi plans and scheming to get back into them. Baker’s stunt-casting, more so than even Pacino (who, playing a Jewish Holocaust survivor in old age is the heaviest lifting Pacino’s had to do in a mainstream part in, what, decades), and it’s great to see Baker do his thing. I mean, it’s a little iffy because you’re rejoicing in his evil Nazi bastard being angry he doesn’t get to be a more evil Nazi bastard but… Baker’s amazing at being evil. What can you do.

Baker’s plot line has him manipulating politician Becky Ann Baker, who’s fine and maybe even good, but not really enough to stand-off against Baker. I’m not sure anyone on “Hunters” is enough to stand-off against Baker. I’ll have to see Pacino do it to believe it.

Then the main plot. The main plot is Pacino and the gang breaking into Nazi banker John Noble’s bank, where the bad guys have a safety deposit box. It’s going to be an intricate plan and require a lot from the team. It feels a little like Inside Man during the heist preparation scenes but not during the actual execution because it turns out the team isn’t all that great at the heist thing. There aren’t cracks so much as the team is a bunch of amateurs. Outside Kate Mulvany, who’s a little better this episode when she’s got to narrate some Holocaust flashbacks for Logan Lerman so Lerman has another chance to realize the Nazis were actual bad guys and not just misled padawans or whatever.

Lerman also talks to Jerrika Hinton, who continues to lose presence in the show.

There’s a good showdown scene between Pacino and Noble to round off the episode.

The episode’s also got a recurring flashback with A.J. Shively and Anna Ewelina as star-crossed lovers during the Holocaust but it’s just to later emphasize Lerman’s lack of understanding, complete with some Schindler’s List black and white stylizing. “Hunters” nicely doesn’t shy away from being a lot but occasionally it’s way too comfortable about it.

Hunters (2020) s01e03 – While Visions Of Safta Danced In His Head

Maybe it’s just knowing Logan Lerman started in a YA franchise attempt (he was Percy Jackson) or because he’s got the dagger in his hand during the awesome opening titles every episode, but I wasn’t expecting him to have a whole “I feel super-guilty about killing these Nazis who are trying to kill us” arc.

While the team gets their introductions—Carol Kane is great, Josh Radnor is great—Lerman hangs out with his civilian friends and frets about his lifestyle choices. Except he’s also reading his safta’s journal entries from the concentration camp and her young ghost, Annie Hägg, is haunting him while he does awesome Saturday Night Fever dance routines to show how carefree life can be when you don’t think about the Nazis.

And there’s very good reason to think about the Nazis—turns out they’re plotting to do something terrible in a couple weeks, just the latest in an annual list of terrible things they’ve been doing since the end of the war—like assassinating Kennedy.

The episode also shuffles second-billed FBI agent Jerrika Hinton quite a bit. She starts the episode in imminent danger from evil little Nazi hitman Greg Austin, but ends it completely out of that danger and free to go on her expository investigation. She meets up with a fellow FBI agent—Sam Daly (Tim Daly’s kid)—and it seems like it means something, but not really. Just more treading water in her investigation, more exposition drops, then some more of her home life problems. Turns out Hinton’s closest lesbian story arc doesn’t just remind of “Mindhunter,” it directly lifts from it.

There’s some great stuff with Dylan Baker, a fantastic “how to spot a Nazi” public service announcement commercial with Radnor and guest star Hailey Stone (not all White people are Nazis but all Nazis are White people), and some iffy “you’re the Batman in our friend group” reinforcement for Lerman.

So Lerman’s not the lead I was expecting and Hinton’s pretty thankless all things considered, but “Hunters” is still sturdy.

Even if the idea of an open all night comic shop in late seventies Brooklyn is wholly absurd. I could be wrong. But… it seems absurd.

Hunters (2020) s01e02 – The Mourner’s Kaddish

The important series story development this episode is it turns out Logan Lerman isn’t okay with torturing and killing Nazis hiding in the United States. He’s still the same softie as in the first episode when he thought Darth Vader probably wasn’t all evil and didn’t, you know, kill a bunch of little kids in his youth or something. This episode’s Nazi—and that part is the possibly important practical series question, is there going to be a “Nazi target of the week”—but this episode’s Nazi is John Hans Tester. He’s fine, but nothing special. He tries to kill Lerman, just like the last Nazi, only Lerman still isn’t grokking it.

Meanwhile, however, Jerrika Hinton—who’s somehow simultaneously become the show’s most “real” character and the one most seemingly a knock-off of the “Mindhunter” female lead role (Hinton’s got a girlfriend, so she’s a Black lesbian FBI agent in 1977, which is a lot)—anyway, Hinton’s realized the Nazis are still around and they’re still really bad. She has a nice monologue about how Hansel and Gretel is really just a story about how some little German kids robbed and murdered a Jewish woman.

Now, where Hansel and Gretel as great of villains as the Nazis on “Hunters,” which doubles down on giving Dylan Baker some amazing material. Baker’s an unappreciated acting treasure and seeing him (an American) do a German pretending to be an American lying about his not murdering his own family is awe-inspiring.

Now, despite him being so amazing, the show doesn’t give him a peppy theme like it gives evil Nazi boss lady Lena Olin. She’s got theme music. It’s a little weird.

Also this episode has young Nazi Greg Austin threatening children and pregnant women. It makes you feel guilty for enjoying Austin’s performance. You feel seen, admiring what a great psychotic Nazi he can create.

There’s also a very cheap “Tarantino-esque” introduction to the rest of Al Pacino’s “Hunters.” We later find out its how Lerman is processing the things around him. Basically Kate Mulvany, who’s the killer MI-6 nun lady, doesn’t like him but team goof Josh Radnor owes him because of Lerman’s grandma so they’re bros. Pacino doesn’t really take a mentor position but more a concerned family friend one. It’s very interesting to see Pacino in television, even streaming. He’s got lots of energy but very little ambition. He also falls back on his accent for his character when he starts getting too Pacino-y.

It works. Good cast. Especially Carol Kane and Saul Rubinek as the married Qs who do all the tech work.

Mulvany’s an exception, though it’s the script. The balance between the supporting cast is off.

Good music from Cristobal Tapia de Veer. I also noticed the photography is William Rexer (it’s excellent, but it’s also just nice to see him lighting projects people will see).

I had been thinking it’d take the season for Hinton to team up with Pacino and Lerman but it’s seeming like it’s going to happen sooner than later, which is good too. Because, so far, “Hunters” works.

Scroll to Top